By Karen Carr Keefe
The Town Board voted Monday night to be the lead agency for Acquest Development Co. in its quest to put a 1.1-million-square-foot distribution facility on Long Road at a site Amazon withdrew from last August.
Grand Island Supervisor John Whitney said the Town Board’s vote to be lead agency doesn’t mean it is for or against the project. “It’s really a ministerial act, and what ‘lead agency’ refers to is, basically, the entity that has the most permitting requirements as the proposal is reviewed.”
He said, as the project goes forward in the approval process, the town would be the entity to issue road and building permits, site plan approval, water connections and the like.
Whitney said any involved agency that is within 500 feet of that project is going to be notified of the town’s intent to be the lead agency. That would include the state Thruway Authority, the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation and the Erie County Department of Public Works.
He said if any one of those agencies feels they can make a stronger case to be the lead agency, they could make that case and it would be evaluated.
“But really, I don’t think that’s going to happen, because Grand Island is the one that has the most permitting processes,” Whitney said.
The proposed one-story warehouse would occupy 38 acres along the I-190 portion of the thruway that crosses Grand Island, between Long and Bedell roads.
When Acquest Vice President Michael Huntress announced his plan on Dec. 3, 2020, he said that it was unfortunate the Amazon Project, referred to as Project Olive, didn’t succeed.
“We are confident there is a big need for what we are designing here,” Huntress said in a meeting of town department heads late last year. He has also said his company’s new project has a smaller footprint than Amazon’s proposal, wouldn’t require zoning variances and fits into the town’s current master plan. He added that his company’s design builds on and updates a lot of legwork that Amazon had initiated.
The Acquest proposal faces opposition from a residents group called Coalition for Responsible Economic Development for Grand Island. Board member Dave Reilly said in a Dec. 7 Town Board meeting that the Amazon and Acquest plans “are very different projects with unique impacts. This project has the potential to be extremely consequential for our community and environment.”
Reilly urged the Town Board to require a new scoping process for evaluating the impacts of the Acquest proposal.